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Panic buying gas could impact emergency response time

First responders across East Tennessee want your help. They join a chorus of people pleading with drivers to avoid unnecessarily hoarding fuel out of fear.

MORGAN COUNTY, Tenn. — There isn't a gas shortage in Tennessee, and with the Colonial Pipeline back online as of 5 p.m. -- we shouldn't be seeing anymore long-term issues.

Despite experts and Tennessee leaders repeating there would not be widespread gas shortages from the pipeline outage, many people still began panic buying and hoarding Tuesday night, which left some stations -- particularly smaller ones operated by grocers -- temporarily out of gas because of a sudden rush to the pumps.

This left first responders on the road concerned. While there remained plenty of gas overall, stores in areas hit by panic hoarding were running short -- which meant response times in those specific areas would be affected by them needing to go out of their way to fill up.

It's the message many are sharing online, from the Jefferson County Rescue Squad to the Cocke County Emergency Management Agency: don't hoard gas.

"Some counties have county garages for fuel, some do not. We have our fire departments get their gas through our EMS, and the sheriff's department gets their gas through the regular gas station like everybody else," said Jody Zorsch, Morgan County's EMA director.

Had panic buying not happened and people just filled up when they needed to like normal, there would have been no shortages. She also posted online to tell people to stop taking gas they don't need because it could directly impact their safety.

Credit: Jefferson County Rescue Squad

"If the gas station's out because you get gas at three quarters of a tank, that sheriff's deputy you need that's driving all day long may not be able to get the gas he needs to get to your house when you call 911," said Zorsch.

Once again, there is not a shortage of gas supply in Tennessee. Places that temporarily ran out of gas did so because of an unexpected and rapid uptick in demand when people feared there would be a shortage.

"Our logistics infrastructure in this nation set up on gasoline. And so I think we've probably affected that for a day right now. But if you had a true supply problem, you would have far reaching consequences," said Lance Saunders, an assistant professor of supply chain management at UT.

Saunders said those consequences could range from not getting your Amazon packages to not having food at the grocery story or power in your home.

That's not happening right now.

"We're all going to have to be patient until they can get this set number of trucks that deliver gas to our gas stations from where there actually is gas to get it because we all made a run yesterday when they weren't expecting us to," said Saunders.

You know if you actually need gas or if you're panicking maybe just a little bit. Leave it at the pumps if you've got a full tank.